Middlesbrough legend Craig Hignett on survival fears and his bust-up with Aitor Karanka

Aitor Karanka
Aitor Karanka

Craig Hignett concedes it will be a “big ask” for his beloved Middlesbrough to stay in the Premier League – even though he thinks the club’s decision to put Steve Agnew in charge was a good one.

The former Boro assistant manager and Hartlepool United boss thinks the Premier League strugglers will need at least five wins to stay up.

Craig Hignett

Craig Hignett

“I’m pleased Steve Agnew has been given the chance because I think he has earned it,” said the 47-year-old.

“I don’t think it will faze him, but I think he has been given a really tough job.

“It’s an impossible task when you look at the stats.”

In an interview with Reuters news agency, the ex-Middlesbrough midfielder and forward feels the odds are against them.

Boro have not won in 2017 in the top flight, have gone 14 league games without a victory and have scored just 22 times, the worst tally in the division.

“I think Boro need five wins to avoid relegation, possibly six,” said Hignett.

“If you look at what they’ve done over the season as a whole, they’ve only won four games. It’s a tough ask.

“Sometimes you’ve got to forget about pretty football.

“There’s still eight games left but there are some tough fixtures coming up [including Arsenal and Manchester City at home, and Chelsea away].

“It’s easy to say they’ll be lucky to pick up points there but anything can happen in football.”

Hignett, who said he would love a return to coaching or management following his departure from Hartlepool United in January, spoke about his time as right-hand-man to Aitor Karanka.

“When I was assistant at Middlesbrough it was near enough my dream job,” said Higgy, who scored the first-ever goal at the Riverside. “I was at the club I love.

“As it was, the 11 months I was there were a bit turbulent because of Aitor Karanka.

“I only had one fallout with Aitor but with him there’s no coming back from it. If you fall out with him, that’s it. It can never be repaired.

“He was difficult to work with at times. The way he works is very intense. He’s a perfectionist.

“Sometimes that can be a good thing, but on the other hand, I think there is a time and a place to enjoy what you’re doing.

“He got the club promoted, which is what he was brought in to do, but ultimately he has been found out in the Premier League.”